Video: Finance Minister, Labour Minister, BEDC

December 16, 2020 | 1 Comment

[Updated] Minister of Finance Curtis Dickinson, Minister of Labour Jason Hayward and BEDC Director Erica Smith held a joint press conference this afternoon [Dec 16], and we will have additional coverage later on and in the meantime the video is below.

Update 5.52pm: Minister Jason Hayward’s full statement follows below:

Good day to members of the media and the listening public.

I am joined here today by the Minister of Finance and Erica Smith, Executive Director of the BEDC.

Introduction

In today’s press conference I will provide an update on three [3] areas:

1.Work From Bermuda Statistics and Renewals for the 2nd Year;

2.Department of Workforce Development Programme Updates.

1. Work From Bermuda Statistics and Renewals for the 2nd Year

I am pleased to report that the 1-Year Residential Certificate programme continues to find success. We have now received a total of 587 applications of which 508 have been approved. I can further advise that of the approved applications, 244 are currently enjoying life in Bermuda and contributing daily to the local economy.

The Department continues to receive applications in various stages of completion. From the large number of applications received, it is clear that the Residential Certificate continues to be quite popular. There is also a demand for one year residents to reside for an additional year, which these persons can apply for after 6 months or residency in Bermuda.

3. Department of Workforce Development Programme Updates

At this time, I will provide an interim update on the targeted delivery of training and development programmes and initiatives to assist the thousands of Bermudians who are out-of-work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to retool and upskill their abilities.

I am pleased to inform members of the public and the media that all industry stakeholders participating in these training initiatives have committed to providing employment opportunities to meet their respective staffing needs across the various related occupations and industries.

This Government remains steadfast in its commitment to addressing the unemployment crisis by supporting training initiatives in occupations where expatriate workers have repatriated and Bermudians can work and adequately fill those needs in Bermuda’s workforce.

To communicate with individuals participating in training programmes, several virtual and in-person Orientation Information presentations were conducted by the Department of Workforce Development staff and industry HR professionals. Each stakeholder shared their expectations with participants and invited feedback about their respective occupations. Components of these sessions included work ethic expectations, employability skills, soft and hard skills job requirements, a brief history of the challenges and successes of the industry as well as the potential opportunity for employment and growth in the industry.

I will now provide an update on the following training and development programmes and its impact on the number of Bermudians participating in them. A hybrid approach of virtual/online and on-the-job training has been used to ensure that Bermudians receive optimum training to meet the various levels and needs of unemployed Bermudians. These opportunities include training for Bermudians who have very little to no experience in the respective training occupations to increase their chances for employment.

The Certified Cleaning Technicians programme, in partnership with the cleaning industry, eleven [11] Bermudians successfully completed the training programme on the 10th December with all receiving Certificates. To date, four [4] companies are in the process of interviewing prospective candidates for employment. Other companies will contact the Department after reviewing their staffing needs in the New Year.

Due to the success of the programme and the fact it was oversubscribed, a second cohort will commence training in March 2021, the last quarter of this fiscal year. In partnership with twelve [12] Cleaning Companies, with Atlantic Cleaning and Maintenance selected to spearhead the training programme.
The MEF Group of Companies Waiter Server programme. The Waiter Server training programme is being offered in partnership with the MEF Group and is progressing well.  The programme currently has twelve [12] Bermudians enrolled. These twelve [12] participants were sources in response to advertisements on the Bermuda Job Board and referrals from the Department’s database. The programme is a 15 week, in-house, on-the-job training programme where participants follow a set curriculum and rotate among the MEF restaurants.  Similar to the former restaurant training programme, this on-the-job training initiative has been suspended until the New Year as a result of the current COVID-19 restrictions.

 The Certified Administrative Professionals [CAPS].

The Certified Administrative Professionals programme, currently has fifteen [15] Bermudians enrolled. These fifteen [15] Bermudians were assessed and selected from a group of one hundred and forty [140] unemployed registered applicants. This training commenced on December 10, 2020.  Due to the programme, being oversubscribed, and given the demand of the industry, the Department will implement the Microsoft Office Specialist [MOS] training in partnership with the Bermuda College as an entry-level certification for Office Assistants.  This training will commence in March 2021.

Learn-to-Earn. The new health restrictions placed on the restaurant industry as of December 8, 2020, have had a direct impact on this training programme.  Each of the industry partners involved; namely Huckleberry’s, Henry’s, Take 5 Group, Island Restaurant Group and Yellow Fin Group have encountered large scale cancellations and loss of business and as a result, the decision was taken to suspend the programme for a second time as a result of COVID-19.  This is most unfortunate as the Department’s efforts, which only just begun on November 23, 2020, were directed at completing training for the first and second cohort of twelve [12] trainees which were previously suspended in March 2020 when the COVID-19 Pandemic first hit;  a third cohort was scheduled to commence January 25, 2021.

The Department of Workforce Development also remains committed to ensuring that these Bermudians complete their training and will remain in contact with the Industry partners.

The Microsoft Clips on-line training programme currently has fifteen [15] Bermudians enrolled. These fifteen [15] Bermudians were assessed and selected from a group of fifty-five [55] unemployed registered applicants.  The Department of Workforce Development team will monitor client use and lend support and encouragement where needed.

Digital Literacy. The Digital Literacy programme provides basic Microsoft Office Suite computer training and instruction for entry-level uses. The programme currently has ten [10] Bermudians to enroll. These ten [10] Bermudians were selected from a group of forty-six [46] unemployed registered applicants.  Due to the programme being oversubscribed, a second cohort of ten [10] will commence training in February 2021, with the possibility of a third cohort in March 2021.

Horticulture Training Programme. The Certificate in Basic Horticulture offered in partnership with the Bermuda College currently has eleven [11] Bermudians registered. These eleven [11] Bermudians were assessed and selected from a group of twenty-nine [29] unemployed registered applicants and thirty-nine [29] from the rolls of the unemployment register who were invited to apply.  Classes for an additional cohort will commence on January 18, 2021

Graduate Training Programme. Applicants have been shortlisted and the Department will be contacting these individuals to begin interviews this week.  The programme has capacity for a total of fifteen [15] participants.  Successful candidates will receive coaching, employability skills training and one-on-one support to develop their personal brand.  Each participant will be afforded the opportunity to work in their area of study.

We are committed to addressing youth unemployment and sufficiently developing persons to make a significant contribution to Bermuda’s workforce.  For this reason, the remaining applicants will also receive similar work readiness training and coaching to successfully position them to enter the workforce.  It is anticipated that the programme will launch in the coming weeks.

As a result of these programs, we now have approximately 110 Bermudians in training and employment initiates. Additional training programmes and initiatives will be offered in the New Year to ensure that more Bermudians are afforded the opportunity to enhance their employability and professional skills.

At this time, I must express my gratitude to the Department of Workforce Development staff for their hard work, commitment and professionalism as they address the sensitive concerns and anxiety of clients during these unprecedented times.

At this time, I welcome questions from the media.

Update 6.23pm: Minister Curtis Dickinson’s full statement follows below:

Good afternoon.

Thank you for joining us today.

Bermuda certainly has seen our challenges recently with the increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19. I would like to commend the team at the Ministry of Health and all of their stakeholder partners and front line workers for the significant work they are doing to stop the spread of the coronavirus here, and keep this island safe.

In my remarks today, I will cover three areas. They are as follows:

  • The Government’s new Unemployment Benefit;
  • The Framework of the 2021/22 Budget; and
  • The new Electronic Registry System for the Registrar of Companies.

The Unemployment Benefit

Let me start with Government’s recently announced Unemployment Benefit.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has had a significant impact on our community, especially on those who find themselves out of work on short notice and without an income as a result of this crisis. Providing emergency financial relief to these families, is a responsibility that the Government takes seriously.

The public will recall when the 18-week Unemployment Benefit concluded the Government quickly introduced a Supplemental Unemployment Benefit [SUB].

Due to recent increases in the number of confirmed cases of people with the coronavirus, on December 7th the Government introduced further precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus. These measures, included the closure of bars, nightclubs and members clubs. These restrictions may cause affected employees to either temporarily lay off, or reduce the hours of their employees. Accordingly, the Government has reacted quickly to provide short-term financial assistance to affected employees and introduced a new unemployment benefit to those affected employees.

These benefit payments will pertain to verified employees of bars, nightclubs and members clubs who have had to close due to current COVID-19 restrictions. The total benefit for these persons will be $500 per week for the period that these restrictions are in place. The spirit of this benefit is to compensate individuals who work at these establishments and are unable to earn their ordinary compensation. The initial benefit of two weeks or $1,000 will be paid this week to individuals who have complete application submissions, including verification from their employer. The Government will revisit the restrictions on December 22 and may extend the benefit further if deemed necessary.

Due to speed with which the Government responded, an incorrect email address for employers and incomplete website address were posted…apologies for any confusion or delay this caused. Recent press releases have shared the correct contact information and explained the application process. We encourage all eligible employees and employers to take the time to properly follow the process to ensure payments are made on a timely basis. This information can be found on https://uba.gov.bm.

At this time I can confirm that we have approved 50 applications for this benefit and will be instructing the Accountant General to make payments to those individuals. Our team is currently assessing an additional 110 applications.

In addition, individuals who have been directed into mandatory quarantine or isolation by the Ministry of Health, and are unable to earn their ordinary compensation while under quarantine or isolation can also apply for this benefit. This benefit was already provided for in the original unemployment benefit and these individuals will be paid on a biweekly basis starting on 18 December. The benefit payout will be calculated at 60% of an individual’s remuneration with a maximum of $500 per week.

At this time I can confirm that we have received 63 applications for this benefit that are under review and a further 37 that are awaiting employer input.

We want to ensure that those persons in our community that need assistance receive it. Therefore if members of the public who have been impacted by the recent Health Regulations or have been forced to quarantine or isolate and are unable to earn their normal compensation I encourage you to fill out the application.

It is important to continue to help people through these challenging times and this unemployment benefit will provide temporary assistance to persons by providing financial support to meet their basic needs.
Again, please go to https://uba.gov.bm, for complete details on the unemployment benefits.

The Framing of the 2021/22 Budget

Preparing the 2021/22 Budget will be challenging given the unprecedented uncertainties in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As highlighted in a recent Ministerial Statement that I made in the House of Assembly, in fiscal year 2020/21 the Government has taken and continues to take unprecedented policy actions to redirect existing resources towards health and social support measures. These actions have required unbudgeted COVID-19 expenditures of approximately $125 million for this fiscal year. COVID-19 has also had a significant impact on Government revenues and the Ministry estimates that revenue yields for 2020/21 will contract by about 18.5% or $208.1 million. After factoring in the impact of COVID-19, and various austerity measures taken by the Government, the revised deficit for 2020/21 is estimated at $295.4 million.

Other factors which will impact the framing and composition of the 2021/22 Budget include:

  • Continuing deficits, high debt levels and the debt ceiling;
  • Government’s 2020 General Election Campaign Platform and the 2020 Speech From The Throne;
  • Economic considerations;
  • Taxation sensitivities;
  • Continuation of Zero Based Budgeting that will include a Public Service Value Assessment to provide for a better-quality portrayal of the range of services delivered by the Government of Bermuda;
  • Feedback from the Pre-Budget Report in advance of fiscal year 2021/2022;
  • Risks facing the country; and
  • The implementation of the Government’s fiscal strategy; which is to reduce net debt and balance the budget by 2023/24.

Like most small states and territories, Bermuda’s economy is highly vulnerable to external events, underlining the need for financial and fiscal prudence. This vulnerability is compounded by our continuing budget deficits and Government indebtedness. This vulnerability has now materialised in a far more rapid and powerful form than anyone could have expected with the onset of COVID-19.

The Government has to take a number of actions to address the problems the island faces, and it is important that stakeholders and citizens understand these vulnerabilities, have the opportunity to give their views, and are aware of the factors driving the Government’s fiscal policy decisions.

Therefore, in keeping with our pledge on openness and transparency, we will continue with the process of releasing a Pre-budget Report [PBR] as part of the preparation process for the 2021/22 budget.

The objective of the PBR is to increase public awareness of a government’s fiscal and budget policy objectives, and to establish a benchmark for evaluating the conduct of fiscal and budget policy.

This will continue to ensure that our budget process is clear and transparent and our Pre-budget report will explain the factors driving the Government’s fiscal policy decisions while also giving everyone the opportunity to make their views known during this period of uncertainty.

I can confirm that the Pre-Budget Report in Advance of the 2021/22 fiscal year will be released before the end of the year and we welcome all key stakeholders including you, the People of Bermuda, to fully participate in the process after the report is released.

Making Government more efficient – New Electronic Registry System for the ROC

An important part of the Government’s economic recovery plan relates to making the Government more efficient. To this end I am pleased to report on recent legislation passed which will make us more efficient in the area of company formation, an important part of the Bermuda economy.
I am referring to the Companies and Partnerships [Electronic Registry] Amendment Act 2020. This Bill amended the Companies Act 1981 and other legislation to provide the Minister of Finance with the authority to make regulations to require that all documentation under the relevant Acts be filed with, or issued, by the Registrar of Companies [ROC] is to be filed or issued electronically.

This legislation is important as it will provide the legal framework for a New Electronic Registry System for the ROC which will replace the existing, outdated obsolete systems which are no longer supported by vendors, and is extremely administratively burdensome and to some degree costly for industry and the Government.

The Registrar’s electronic system will be implemented in several phases beginning with some of the registration services available in February 2021. The remaining services will be made available over the ensuing months with the expectation that by summer 2021, the Registrar of Companies will be fully operating its electronic registration system.

Upon the full implementation of the electronic registration system, all filings required by the various pieces of legislation will be submitted via the electronic platform which will be hosted on the Registrar of Companies website. Certificates and notices required to be issued by the Registrar will be generated by the electronic registration system. This also means that all records that are required to be available to the public will be available for viewing online.

This initiative also aligns with the Government’s Paperless by 2023 Plan, and will provide quality public services in the area of company formation to address the needs and expectations of citizens and businesses.

In closing, I want to remind everyone that this recent uptick in cases means that we must continue to do our part – avoid socializing, especially outside of your bubble, download the WeHealth App and follow the public health guidelines.

I’d also like to wish all of you a Happy Holiday and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Thank you.

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  1. Donderered says:

    How on earth will the budget be balanced in the time frame mentioned?

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